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Azerbaijan Says Almost 3,000 Troops Killed In Nagorno-Karabakh Fighting

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A woman cries at the coffin of an Azerbaijani soldier killed in fighting over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region at a funeral ceremony in the Beylagan district on September 30.

BAKU -- Nearly 2,800 Azerbaijani soldiers were killed in fighting with ethnic Armenian forces over Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijani officials said, the first time Baku has published casualty figures from the 44-day conflict.

The figures, released December 3 by the Defense Ministry, came nearly three weeks after a Russian-brokered cease-fire ended fighting over the breakaway territory, which is legally part of Azerbaijan but has been controlled by ethnic Armenians since the early 1990s.

The fighting, which erupted September 27, was the worst since the early 1990s, and ended with Azerbaijani forces taking control over much of the mountainous region and surrounding districts.

The Defense Ministry said that 2,783 of its soldiers and officers were killed during the conflict, more than 100 military personnel were still missing, and 1,245 servicemen were wounded.

In Armenia, officials at the Health Ministry told RFE/RL that corpses of 2,718 servicemen were being examined by medical personnel, adding that the bodies of Azerbaijani soldiers could be among the corpses.

Administration officials in Nagorno-Karabakh have previously said that the corpses of 1,741 soldiers and officers had been identified so far. That figure includes the figure from the Armenian Health Ministry.

The conflict over the region erupted in the late 1980s in the waning days of the Soviet Union. All-out war ended in 1994, with more than 30,000 people killed and more than 1 million people displaced, mainly ethnic Azeris.

Ethnic Armenians had controlled the region, even though it was still internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan.

Russia has deployed nearly 2,000 peacekeepers to the region to monitor the Russian-brokered cease-fire, which does not settle the question of the region's legal status.

The outcome of the fighting has been humiliating for many Armenians. The signing of the truce prompted street protests in Yerevan and threatened Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian's government.

In Azerbaijan, though, the agreement has been hailed as a great victory. President Ilham Aliyev's office announced that November 8, the day when Azerbaijani troops regained control over the symbolic and strategic city of Susa, will be marked each year as Victory Day.

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